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Observations About Marital Love Pt. 1

Culture tells us that love is ambiguous or flimsy or can change, and most people fear that their love isn't going to last. Learning how to define what love is, is extremely important, especially if you're moving toward a lasting commitment in marriage. In this episode we discuss criteria for marital love that are crucial for lifelong commitment.


Transcript

Chris Grace:

Welcome to our very first podcast on the art of relationships. We're your hosts.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm Tim Muehlhoff.

Chris Grace:

I'm Chris Grace, and we're both with the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. We're here to talk about all things relationships. In fact today, in today's episode, we're going to start talking about a variety of things related to relationships, especially for those who are interested in thinking about taking a friendship into a deeper level of engagement, and is this the right one for me? Tim, we're going to talk about that today.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, huge decision, and people need some kind of criteria by which to make that kind of decision.

Chris Grace:

Before we get started today we want to quickly introduce ourselves to you, so that you know who we are and why you should listen to us. Tim, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm a professor of communication here at Biola University. I teach classes on family communication, conflict resolution, gender. My background is, and this cracks my wife up all the time by the way, that I have Ph.D. in marital communication from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. My wife would say I'm really good at the theory part of things. I love relationships, love talking about it, and I can't think of a more pertinent topic in today's climate than relationships, and how to make them last and thrive.

Chris Grace:

I'm Chris Grace, I have a Ph.D. in social psychology from Colorado State. My wife laughs at that because she says, "Chris, sometimes you don't even like people." But I do, I love the opportunity of being a professor here for the last almost 28 years at a university, Biola University. I teach courses in introductory psychology, we teach a course on relationships, and I've been doing research and studying and writing in this area for a long time.

 

We launched our Center for Marriage and Relationships, or the CMR as we call it at Biola University. We're here in Southern California, we did launch this just about a year and a half ago. Our purpose in the center is to help people build and sustain healthy, Christ-centered relationships by combining the timeless cross-cultural truths of the Bible with the cutting edge research being done, and then help people apply it to their relationships in practical ways so that they can flourish and thrive, and then ultimately draw others to Christ.

Tim Muehlhoff:

The CMR offers a variety of resources for you, like marriage/relationship conferences, blogs, videos with practical tips and advice, marriage mentoring curriculum and training, premarital counseling, counseling referrals, and a lot more. Just visit our website at cmr.biola.edu and take advantage of all these terrific resources.

 

Chris, I teach this class on relationships, and I ask my students, "How many of you want to fall in love one day?" Everybody raises their hand. Then I say to them, "How many of you want to stay married to that person for the rest of your life?" Again, every hand goes up. Then I say this to them, I say, "On a piece of paper, take out a piece of paper, I want you to write your personal definition of love. A definition that's strong enough that you can make a decision to stay committed to a person for the next 60, 70 years. Chris, you should see them. They look like deer caught in headlights. They're just sitting there, and they're kind of writing ...

Chris Grace:

They have no answers.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah. Some start to cheat. They start to look at the people next to them like, "What did you put down?"

Chris Grace:

"Can I borrow that answer?"

Tim Muehlhoff:

"Can I borrow that?" Nobody goes past a half page. No one even comes close. A few people put one or two sentences, and then some people don't put anything. Then I say to them, "Do you see the problem?" They laugh and they go, "Of course we see the problem." All of us are interested in long, thriving marriages, and many of our listeners are at the very front end of that. They're seriously dating somebody, or they're thinking about seriously dating somebody, they're thinking about moving towards engagement, and fundamental to that is a robust, detailed definition of love. I think probably your experience is the same as mine, every few people have that kind of definition.

Chris Grace:

I think what happens is, it makes such sense to us to say I love somebody, I love some thing, I love this person, or even this movie. We use it so regularly. I think the word love becomes a very important word to us, you know it as a kid, but then when you said, "Could you define," or, "Define for me your love, your romantic love, in this relationship." It adds in other elements, right, of complexity, because love is not easy to understand for a lot of people. Then all of a sudden now you're dealing with all kinds of different cultural influences, and ways in which we define it.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Absolutely. I also say to them, it's interesting, I say to them, how many of you, if I told you the next car you were going to buy, you were going to drive the rest of your life, "What would you do with that car? Would you take it to a mechanic? Would you pop the hood? Would you go on a test drive?" They say, "Of course," but with this relationship that's going to last a lifetime, we're struggling just to get a simple definition of what love is. We thought it'd be a great podcast to develop some questions, or at least some broad categories, that we think everybody needs to be thinking about as they're moving towards a lasting commitment.

Chris Grace:

For a lot of the people we're around, a lot of people who are deciding and thinking about ... They know marriage is in their future, they know this relationship is going to be important, but they have almost this message from the culture that love is ambiguous, or flimsy or can change, and it's just not stable. A lot of people, I believe, Tim, I know you could talk about this a little bit too, they're beginning to fear that their love isn't going to last because they don't have good models for this. They're thinking, "Do I really want to take this step if the end result is going to be that we're just going to end up in pain and sorrow and divorce?" Learning how to define what love is, is extremely important, and how they know what true love, and what true commitment, and even true friendship is.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's right.

Chris Grace:

Let's get started, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Before these observations, you just sparked my thought about something, I read an article, great title. "Till, oh, One Day to Five Months Do They Part." I love the title title of that article. It was basically introducing readers to a list of celebrity marriages, and how quickly they flamed out, kind of your point. Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, they lasted, drumroll, two days. Michelle Phillips and Dennis Hopper, eight days. Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman, nine days. My hat off to Carmen Electra for nine days. I think that's awesome, she went past a week with Dennis Rodman. Drew Barrymore and Jeremy Thomas, 19 days. The message is there that this flames up very quickly, and also flames out just as quickly.

Chris Grace:

It's fascinating, because this notion too, when people almost list relationship status, they'll put down words, "It's complicated." I think, "That's interesting." It's almost like they don't want to commit to something, realizing, "I'm not even sure what we have, it's just complicated." That leads to this kind of cultural message, and this kind of ambiguity.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's right. Here are observations that we think, if people were to think about it this way, broad categories and key questions, that this how you can pick a person, or move into a committed relationship. We just think that these are absolutely crucial. Oh, sorry, we're out of time! No, I'm sorry.

 

Here is observation number one: Marital love must be grounded in friendship. The Greeks had many different ways to talk about love, but their two favorite ones were, one, Eros, which is that powerful romantic love that we kind of get swept up in, but the other one was storge, and that is the friendship that exists between two individuals. Our argument would be ... You've been married for how long?

Chris Grace:

28 years.

Tim Muehlhoff:

28 years. Man, you crushed Dennis Rodman. We've been married 25 years, and oyu can just attest to the fact that there are moments of Eros, right?

Chris Grace:

Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

There's passion, or sometimes Noreen will just look at me. I'll have the remote in my hand, and she'll look at me and she'll say, "I want you." There are those moments.

Chris Grace:

Was she talking about the remote, or talking about you? I'm sorry, that's probably ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm not sure. By the way, I got her a Valentine's Day card once that said-

Chris Grace:

Wait, you're not sure?

Tim Muehlhoff:

I know, how tragic is that. I gave her a Valentine's Day card one time that said, "On this Valentine's Day I want to give you a symbol of our undying love for each other." You open it, and a remote control pops up. It said, "I give you unhindered access for this remote control for 24 hours," and then the next line was, "This started yesterday."

 

This friendship part is just absolutely crucial. I love Erma Bombeck. Maybe a lot of our listeners don't know who Erma Bombeck is ...

Chris Grace:

Yeah, maybe.

Tim Muehlhoff:

She's a culture watcher, a very insightful woman. She'd been married for 40 years, and she reflected before her death back on that marriage. I love this quote, she said this: "My husband and I have gone through three wars, two miscarriages, five houses, three children, 17 cars, 23 funerals, seven camping trips, 12 jobs, 19 banks, three credit unions, and more than 3009 slammed doors."

Chris Grace:

You had better like that person if you're going to hang out with them for-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Seven camping trips! I've always said to Noreen, "My idea of roughing it is staying at a hotel that doesn't have high-def TV. That is my definition of roughing it.

Chris Grace:

That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

You know what, you're right though, friendship is going to get you through those miscarriages.

Chris Grace:

It is. The friendship is going to get there. You can almost boil friendship down to a very simple ... I think it's an equation that goes like this: Do I like the person, or do I not. We're pretty good at that. We like those we're friends with. We have the same interests, and the same values, and we want to spend time with them. Life changes, and we might change, but one thing remains the same. It's that underlying love and like and appreciation for somebody else. The question is, you'd better have that set up very strong at the very beginning of this, or those seven camping trips, and those 17 cars, they are not going to be fun, to be against somebody that you don't like.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's right, that's absolutely right. I love that, 3,009 slammed doors. I think that's great. The Song of Solomon, if you go back to the Old Testament, the Song of Solomon of course has both. There's Eros, where she describes him, a phrase Noreen often uses for me, is "polished ivory." When she looks at me with my shirt off sometimes it's just like, "Wow, you're blazing," at that moment. I say, "No, you're still not getting the remote."

 

Then, notice what she says. She says, in conjunction with that, "This is my lover, this is my friend." I love how the two are paired with each other, that friendship fuels this. I have a friend of mine, Tim Downs, who wrote a book on marriage. He said this, and I thought this was insightful. "People seem to have two sets of rules for relationships, one for friendship and the other for romance. We long for romance. We try to rush past friendship and hurl ourselves into romance, then we wonder why the romance doesn't last."

 

I love that, how people ... Again, this is the problem with premarital sex, it launches the relationship ... We call these accelerators ... Saying you love a person too quickly, even kissing or physical contact, can propel you so forward in the relationship that you rush past friendship, and now you're immersed in this deep passion that seems to be what's exhibited in pop culture today. Man, there is wisdom in developing that friendship, and purposely keeping some things out of the relationship.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, that notion of how we can misinterpret, or misunderstand, or be blinded to the fact that we have more in common with somebody, that we're really good friends, when the passion comes in. We're designed with that. God designed us to connect to each other. There's this particular hormone that goes through the brain, it allows us to bond together, and it's prevalent in who we are and when we interact with somebody we like. It could be a mom as a little baby, it could be a friend. When that starts to take over, it can blind us to the fact that we don't have a lot in common with somebody.

 

A lot of couples can struggle with that, and knowing what a true friendship is, when in fact they're too involved in the passionate side and they misread something. Friendship begins this very powerful rewarding feature, we like people who like us, and we like people who pay attention to us, and we like the way we feel when we're in the presence of somebody else. All of that is designed, that's part of God's creation of us and the way our brains function, but we have to be very careful that that foundation is there that isn't based upon something that will go away, or could fade over time.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's good. That's really good. It's a delicate dance. We don't want to overreact to what we're ... This is just one observation, we have more to come. I was doing premarital counseling with a couple in North Carolina, and I asked to meet with him separately after some of these conversations. I sat down with him and I said to him, "Tell me what you love about her." He listed things like, "We work well together, we think a lot alike, we make decisions well," bla-bla-bla. All that was great. I said to him, "Listen, you're not looking for a business partner. You're looking for a wife who's going to be your lover. Tell me, are you physically attracted to her." His response was, "Well, um, yes." I said, "Bro, do not say that to her, just trust me." I said, "Listen, I'm concerned that there's not enough Eros here."

Chris Grace:

That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I would've been equally concerned, by the way, if it all would've been Eros. "She's hot, I'm super connected to her," bla-bla-bla. I'd say, "Whoa, wait a minute. You're going to unload dishwashers with this woman." It's that fine dance, and it seems like the Song of Solomon really does protect both of those.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, I think that's right. I think that talks about the balance that's necessary on both sides. In fact I remember going on a date with somebody one time, and we were going to go see, if you remember the Gary Larson Far Side comic strips ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Grace:

At the Natural History Museum in Denver Colorado they had all the original Far Side comics up there. I go with this date, we're sitting there, and I am telling you, laughter is breaking out through this entire museum. Everybody's laughing. I'm sitting there laughing, and here comes the date with me and she's sitting here talking, and she looks up and she goes, "I don't get that." I go, "See, this deer has a birthmark that looks like a target, and all the other deers are teasing him saying, 'Wow, that's a bummer of a birthmark.'" She didn't get it. I'm telling you at that moment, I recognized and I realized, there is something about a friendship, but there's also something about connecting at other ways and other values, including sense of humor, ways in which we like, and this was going to not be a very good relationship. In fact we didn't date much after that.

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's funny, Noreen and I were overseas when Far Side comics really became popular in the United States. We lived overseas for a year. I come back not aware of The Far Side. I'm a year behind everybody else. I forget where we're going, we're going somewhere on a bus with students, college students, and somebody hands me my first Far Side book. The first one I open to, remember, the spaceship lands on Earth and all the farm people come out, and there's a ladder descending from the spaceship, and one alien has fallen and is at the bottom, and the other alien says, "So much for instilling a sense of awe into them." I am howling. Tears are coming down. Everybody's looking at me like, "You have never seen a Far Side comic?" Oh my goodness.

 

Here are some questions to ask with this one friendship category. How many common interests do we have? Do we get excited about the same things? I think that absolutely could be Far Side comics.

Chris Grace:

That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

C.S. Lewis said, "Friendship ought to be about something." Do our common interests include spiritual things? Boy, that's huge. Then to ask the question, you say you love this person, got that, but do you like this person? What do you like about this person?

 

That's our very first category. The second one is this, that the ultimate expression of love is unselfishness. When you take a look at Philippians, Paul says, very interestingly, in Philippians 2, he says, "Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends." Then he says, "Put yourself aside." I like that, putting yourself aside, but is it easy to do that with that person, or is it difficult to be selfless with that person? M. Scott Peck, you're quite aware of him, a psychologist, said, "Love is not effortless; to the contrary, love is full of effort." I'm going to be selfless with this person, but do I have to really work to do it, or does it come naturally because of my affection for this person?

Chris Grace:

Yeah, I remember thinking, Alisa and I were dating and I made a comment, and I said to her, "Lise ..." It was because I felt that, the desire and the interest in wanting to express to her, and to be unselfish about it, and I made this comment, said, "Lise, you know what, everything that I have as far as money, when we ..." I think we were at that point either engaged or getting close to engagement, and I said, "It's going to be cool, because everything that I have is yours, and will be ours." She's like, "Yes, that's the exact thing I was waiting to hear." Then I kind of regretted the moment that I said that, because I went, "Oh wait, hold on ..." Then it struck me, part of what it means to deeply care and love somebody means you can do this naturally, without thinking. It just came out. "I want to give you everything, I want you to have this. What I have is yours."

 

If you don't have that in a relationship, it is going to be a deep, difficult struggle. Being able to put aside yourself, to look out for the interests of somebody else, that's really an important step. Someone's going to have to ask that question as you're going on, "Is this easy enough for you to do? Do you like doing this? Do you like this person such that you want to do this?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, marriage is work, but it shouldn't be work 24/7. When we all stood at the altar, those of you listeners who are married, you stand at the altar and you make a really huge bet that day. You say, "Listen, I'm going to be with you in sickness and in health, and I'm going to bet that it's health. I'm going to be with you in poverty and in wealth, and I'm going to really bet that it's wealth, not poverty." I think what takes us all by surprise are the selfless acts that you constantly have to do. I remember Noreen, when she gave birth to our oldest son Michael, snapped her tailbone in the delivery process. Just for a second, can I say that women are the stronger of the sexes.

Chris Grace:

Oh, I agree.

Tim Muehlhoff:

If it were up to men to continue humanity via childbirth, I think as men we would say, "We've had a great run. What's on TV?" There's no way I'm snapping a tailbone in childbirth. My job is to be the coach, which is to feed her ice. Remember that? I have a friend who said, "Coaching a woman in childbirth is like coaching an avalanche."

 

Noreen snaps her tailbone. Now we have this beautiful child, she has this snapped tailbone. She goes to a physical therapist who says to me ... We're there together and he says to me, "Listen, I'm going to teach you these kind of massages, and you need to do this 30 minutes a night, for months." Which sounds kind of romantic, and you're thinking, "Maybe this could lead to sex with a woman with a snapped tailbone, I don't know." Till you do this, and man, I'm doing it, then it's the next night, the next night, the next. I'm thinking, "Months, what?" You're tested.

 

Then when kids come along, toddlers, you're tested to the ... I never anticipated being that tested, and my selfishness coming to the surface, when I had kids, toddlers.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, I felt bad for Alisa, she was tested within the first 48 hours after we were married. Because why? We went down to Cancun for our honeymoon, a little island actually, Cozumel. 48 hours into this I'm in there messing around, squirting water at her in the shower, and then she's out and I'm just sitting there squirting water over the shower curtain, and she said, "You'd better stop that."

Tim Muehlhoff:

And you're in Mexico, oh no!

Chris Grace:

And I'm in Mexico, and I keep swallowing this water and drinking it and spitting it.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh, no!

Chris Grace:

72 hours later I have the single most strongest reaction, of course, to the water that was there, and I am sick. Now for the rest of our honeymoon ... By the way, at this location there were not doors on the bathroom, there were what we call the swinging bar doors.

Tim Muehlhoff:

No, no!

Chris Grace:

You couldn't close the door, so noises and sounds and smells ... My poor wife had to sit there and to, "Wow, this is what I signed up for." Thank that-

Tim Muehlhoff:

"You had me at, bleh!" Oh, no!

Chris Grace:

When you say that ultimate expression of love is a part of unselfishness, we really have to realize that that is going to be part of the rest of your life. You are going to need to commit to this person, and it's going to be hard.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Let me just say this, in all seriousness. We attended a lecture this Sunday, me, my wife, and some friends, where adults were talking about caring for spouses that had aged, but not aged well. Everything from, honestly, changing diapers, to Alzheimers, and couldn't remember, or had a personality change and suddenly became a very angry person. I just sat there, Chris, like, "Wow." That selfishness may not end your entire lifetime, and may be greatly challenged by something unexpected, an injury ...

 

A great friend of mine, they were on a vacation, and they were riding bicycles that they had rented, and she was wearing her helmet and he didn't, and was hit behind by a drunk driver. He went flying in the air, smacked his head on her windshield. When the police came they literally took her away because they were absolutely certain he was dead. He survived, but he had a complete personality change. She said, "I literally have a different husband." That selfishness ... They're married together, we just corresponded with each other via email the other day. They're married, but boy, that selfishness, and the willingness to be with this person through all seasons of life, and to minister to this person, is, man, that's powerful.

Chris Grace:

It is powerful. I remember Alisa asking, and saying, "There's one thing you ought to do before and when you're dating somebody, if you're about to find out, is this the person for me, how well do they suffer, do they handle suffering? Because that's the idea, right? That's going to be a clear part of your existence.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Let me pick up on that though. Here's what blows me away. We both do premarital counseling with couples. I'm blown away with how many couples, though, have never seen that. They've never seen a season of suffering or pain, they've never seen a season of where we really had legitimate argument. Think about this. Now you're going into this lifetime marriage, and my data collection is really small.

Chris Grace:

Couple of n points, not many.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, I haven't seen you. I remember, one person said you can tell much by a man how he handles rainy Saturdays and tangled Christmas lights. I advocate that you ought to have a long courtship. The engagement, not so much. I'm fine with a five, six, seven month engagement, but the courtship, you ought to see seasons of life. I say to people, "How much time do you need?" One student said something very insightful. He said, "I think you need to see every season twice." I thought, "Boy, that's interesting to think about." I agree, you need to see each other in the worst circumstances to know, how does this person handle stress, and disappointment, and all that kind of stuff?

Chris Grace:

The only other way you can do this, if you don't experience all those seasons, another argument is, you simply watch for that person and extrapolate from the way they treat those ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Grace:

For example, a famous saying, my dad loved this saying, "You can always tell the character of a man by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him."

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's good.

Chris Grace:

There you go, I'm going to watch this person and say, "How do they treat those that are less fortunate? Do they show sympathy and empathy? Are they kind to someone?" That is going to tell me a lot about their character, which I'm going to try and discern too.

Tim Muehlhoff:

You guys went to Cancun?

Chris Grace:

We went to Cozumel, right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, we prefer to give our money to missions, so we ...

Chris Grace:

You went to ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

We went to Salvation Army and did a missions trip for a week. But no, Cancun, that's awesome. I think that's great. The poor will always be with us. You're now flicking water at me. I think, "Where's that come from?"

Chris Grace:

That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Here are some questions to ask with this category. Am I willing to put this person's needs above my own, even when it's inconvenient? The longer we date, am I becoming more or less selfish in the relationship?

Chris Grace:

I like another one you said, that if we do get married, do I care about this person enough to put a lifetime of effort into it, even when I don't feel like it? I think that's a great question.

Tim Muehlhoff:

We've done two categories. Let's tackle one more.

Chris Grace:

Sure.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Here's what I would say at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference. We have what we call pre-engaged sessions, pre-married sessions. It can be engaged people or people seriously dating. I'll say this to them. After going through similar criteria of what we just did, this is what I say to the couples. "Why is it, if you meet a couple that are mismatched with each other, they don't have that friendship and they seem to be really selfish around each other, why had they never asked the really hard questions?" Chris, with my class, my students, I sit on a desk and I make them answer the question. Why didn't they see it? We'll sit there for a long time, and eventually the answer comes out. The answer is that they were sexually intimate ...

Chris Grace:

That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And they were clouded, and never saw what is now readily apparent within the marriage. I love what Renee [Yasubek 00:27:00] said. This is probably my favorite quote on sexual intimacy I've ever read. "Kissing is a means of bringing two people so close together that they can't see each other." I love that. If kissing can do that ...

Chris Grace:

Oh, imagine what sex can do, that's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

This is probably the greatest lie of culture right here, that sex is the way that you become intimate, sex is the way, that it fosters this compatibility, this closeness. You're sexually intimate, and that's the gateway to becoming better friends, closer intimates, and all that kind of stuff.

Chris Grace:

I think this is a ... Talk about an avalanche or a tsunami. I'm not sure you can exist in culture today without getting the message that hits is exactly how you find out if you're close to somebody. How can you not understand ... How could you not do this? How would you know that you're close to somebody if you've never had physical intimacy with them? We made a decision when we were dating to save all of our physical relationship for when we got married. That was a decision we made, so we didn't kiss until we got engaged, we didn't have sex before marriage ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Did you hold hands, that kind of stuff?

Chris Grace:

We did. When we were first dating we held hands, but we didn't kiss, again, like I said, till we got engaged. It was a decision that we both made. I am telling you, the number of people that found that odd or strange when they heard it ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, isn't that funny.

Chris Grace:

Family members going, "How would you know, what if he's not a good kisser? Would you still want to get married to him?" I'm like, "Mom, I'm still going to marry her even though she's ..." My mom didn't say that, but it was mostly the people around us that found this strange. Why? Because culture says, "That's not the way you do it. That's backwards. Instead what you need to do, is there compatibility? That's a big area. You need to know, and should know, that you can intimately connect with this person and you like them that way, and if not you shouldn't get married." Wow, to get the message of just turning that on its head is completely different.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, turn on prime time television tonight. Any of our listeners, watch prime time television tonight and ask the question, how many couples are living together first? How many couples are sexually active first? And that the first sign of commitment isn't even engagement, it's moving in with each other, and even having a child before you get married.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, that's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

We had almost the exact same experience. Noreen and I officially started dating, we had the DTR talk. Now we're officially dating, I wanted to kiss her right away.

Chris Grace:

DTR, by the way, means, "Define The Relationship," which most people know.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yes, which we did. Now we're dating, we're officially dating, and man, I want to kiss her. I just flat-out want to kiss her. We're both committed Christians, and so I go to kiss her, and Noreen says, "I think we ought to have the kissing talk. Because this is going to change our relationship."

Chris Grace:

That's exactly right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

"I think we should just wait. I think we should take some time before we move in that direction, I think we should pray about it." It was so embarrassing. I'm on staff with Campus Crusade With Christ ...

Chris Grace:

And she wants to pray about it.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm like, "Pray and fast. And fast, of course, yes, that's what I was suggesting." We waited, I think we waited three years. No, we waited, I think it was three months maybe, and then Noreen said, "If you're still confident of our relationship, I think it'd be okay to kiss me." She didn't even get the words out. I was like, "Nom!" She didn't even get, but I saw where this was going. It did, it did fundamentally change the relationship, in a very powerful way.

 

Listen, I'm sure that there are non-Christians listening to us, or even people within the Christian community. This is where we're the most countercultural. This is where we come across as being archaic, like a Puritan, like right off the boat, but Paul is very clear in the scriptures. He says in First Thessalonians, I love this, "For this is the will of God." Whenever I read that pre-marrieds I say, "Okay, any confusion so far? Did I lose you anywhere?" "This is the will of God, your sanctification, that is that you abstain from sexual immorality." That word, "sexual," we get a Greek word, [porneus 00:31:07], which absolutely means intercourse. It's as clear as a bell in the Greek that he's saying intercourse. Then he says a very interesting thing that I think also includes other things. He says, "I don't want you to live in lustful passion as the gentiles do." Gentiles, he's referring to those outside the Christian community. Paul's saying, "Intercourse is out, but everything that is leading you to want intercourse also should be out."

 

Chris, at these FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, man, couples are looking at us like, "Have you lost your mind? We're living together right now. We've been having sex, we have a child together." This is where we come across as being insensitive, out of touch, but I think it's an important point that God says, "I think this is going to cloud you at the very moment you need to make a good decision."

Chris Grace:

They often times ask, "Why would God do this? Why would He put this in place? That doesn't make any sense. This Bible was written so long ago that it doesn't understand this culture today." Yet, Tim, there's an answer to this, why he put this in place. What do you tell them? When someone asks that question of you, and they say, "Why would God do this, why would he put this in place," it's simply because setting of a limit, setting something over this area, is very profound and very important, because of the role it plays in who we are and in shaping us. This shapes our very soul. It shapes our connection with other people. He puts this in almost like a protective area to allow us ... This limiting, and then also to provide, at the end, he's saying, "I am your Provider. I give you all the things that you need. I've designed you for pleasure, I've designed you to have joy, I want your relationships to bring Me glory. You trust in Me, and this will happen." It's really a difficult message.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I totally agree with everything you just said, but there's one other element to Him saying, "I want you to wait," God saying, "I want you to wait." It's a litmus test to see who really is Lord of your life.

 

 

There's times I would say to my kids, I'd say, "Dad wants you to do this, and let me explain why I think it's good for you to do this." I think that's totally fine, and I think what you said is absolutely true, God does that in this area. He says, "Listen, I want you to wait. Why? Because it will provide a fruitful, thriving sexual relationship within the marriage." There's other times where I've said to my kids, "Listen, the answer is no, and I don't need to explain myself, because I'm your dad. I do think this is where God says, "You say I'm Lord of your life; here's a litmus test to see if that's true or not." I think in Exodus, when he says, "Honor your parents," not based on what they've done, "Honor them as you honor Me," is another litmus test. This is a hard area.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, we may need to continue this discussion, because I think we need to ask questions, like if a coupling is struggling in this area, what do we do? How do we approach this?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah, that's good.

Chris Grace:

What are some ways that, if we're falling into this and we just can't stop or put limits on, what are some techniques or some things we can do to help us gain control over this area, and recapture some things? Maybe it's a question that we need to ask next time, and answer some of these things. What do you think?

Tim Muehlhoff:

I love it. As we wrap up this section, there's only one question to this section: What percentage of your time together is non-physical? If a couple looks at me and says, "I've got to be honest with you, we're always physical, every date ends in sex," I would say, "That is not reality. When you get married, that is not reality." I'll never forget when Noreen had that first child, and we did the first post-delivery appointment. The doctor looked at me and said, "Of course you can't have sex for six to eight weeks." I was like, "What? And I've got to give massages? Come on though."

 

We're going to pick this issue up in one more podcast, because we have some more observations about whether you should make a lifetime commitment to each other, but I think this is a good place to stop.

Chris Grace:

I think it is too, so hey listen, we're just grateful to have everybody here listening to us at our podcast, The Art Of Relationships. Tim, thanks. Perfect day to hang out and talk about these kinds of things, and look forward to-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Hey, stop spitting water at me. Dude, please ...

Chris Grace:

Okay, I'll talk to you next time.

 

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